It’s difficult to be a writer in the age of Google.* If you make something up, it is very easy for a reader to discover if it’s all a sham. It’s easy enough to convince someone that the story is true within the confines of the story… hell, that’s the job, innit? But when it comes to phrases or words or concepts that don’t exist outside that single moment when you, the writer, need it to exist, and have to improvise, there’s a distinct chance that the reader will question it.
Spiders have a collective noun: Clutter. A clutter of spiders. I am writing about a collection of spiders and the story has to do with Order, which is the opposite (sort of, like emerald is an almost opposite for pumpkin) of clutter. These were many spiders, but definitely not a clutter. The other option for collective noun was cluster, which just sounded terrible. Michelle Kilmer (author of When The Dead, which has so far been fantastic) suggested Spindle. Perfect! Spindle, I have decided, is the term for exactly one thousand spiders.
One thousand, like one hundred, is a magic number. In case you didn’t know. It is, though.
And speaking of magic, I had to then incorporate the word Spindle as a collective noun for exactly one thousand spiders in a way that was convincing within the story. I’m not sure if I’ve accomplished it, but I didn’t do anything foolish like define the term at the beginning of the story… it’s a short story, that would have been too presumptuous. If it were a novel I might have gotten away with a definition, but shorts have to stand wholly on their own. Instead, I hid behind a scary witch of a character and had her convinced of the term’s correct usage. Scary witches are good things to have in fiction.
Sometimes, when I’m feeling afraid of my convictions, I pretend I am a scary witch and the keyboard is my cauldron and then all the magic lies in knowing one is Very Right in all actions, even when wrong. First drafts are for being the witch. Everything after is alchemy.
There is only one way to conquer Google: Conviction. If the confidence behind a phrase outweighs its un-google-ability, it doesn’t matter if you are wrong. You have made yourself right. It’s the rule of Trunchbull: You’ll never get away with anything you do by halves.
Of course, Roald Dahl was talking about the outlandish tormenting of school children, and how she’d never be caught because the Truchbull’s methods went so far as to be unbelievable to anyone but eyewitnesses, but I’ve found her mantra has other, less violent applications.
Now all that’s left is to send out the manuscript, and see if I’ve fooled anyone long enough to make myself right!
*Previous blog post would lead one to believe it was also difficult to write pre-Google, when I’d have to ask around to discover the shape of Johnny Rotten’s hair. I’d imagine that regardless of the era in which one writes, it is difficult to write in general, and the only thing harder than writing, is not writing.